City Talk: Aids scientist gives Biomedix boost

KS Biomedix is poised to announce it has linked up with Professor Luc Montagnier, the French scientist who lays claim to the discovery of the Aids virus. Tomorrow, the company is set to announce interim figures. The news will confirm the status of the group's research into monoclonal antibodies derived from sheep, which are perceived to offer higher binding affinities for human receptor sites than the more traditional source of antibodies from mice. Professor Montagnier will use KS Biomedix's monoclonal antibodies to act as vehicles to deliver drugs to target HIV that he is developing at the Paris Pasteur Institute.

Food for thought again from Tiny Rowland, who last week issued another broadside against the board of his old company, Lonrho, and the efforts to seek a merger with JCI of South Africa. Mr Rowland points out that chairman of Lonrho, Sir John Craven, has strong links to South Africa, and may have been seeking a merger with Anglovaal. Tiny questions if Sir John has any interest in keeping Lonrho independent. Whether that is the case or not, the conclusion, evidence that Lonrho shares are unlikely to show much gain in the current tangled situation, is probably overwhelming.

Williams, the conglomerate, has been rumoured to make a return to the FTSE 100 list of blue chips at the next rejig of constituents. A boost also came last week, when NatWest Markets upgraded the shares to an add, having only warranted a reduce recommendation for the past year and a half. NatWest believes the shares are on an undemanding 13.3 forward price earnings multiple, for 1998.

IS Solutions, a supplier of computer management and consultancy services, is joining the Alternative Investment Market through a placing. Stockbroker Williams de Broe is raising pounds 640,000 for the company, which will be valued at pounds 6.4m, through the issue of 4.77m shares at 134p.

Since 1995, the business, led by managing director John Lythall, has focused on the Internet, and especially developing Internet solutions for companies, through the world wide web, and electronic commerce. Since then, Internet activity contributed 6 per cent to group turnover of pounds 7.67m in 1966, and the level continues to rise.

And still they come. Nottingham Forest has just confirmed a stockmarket flotation, expected to value the club at a little over pounds 30m, according to chairman Nigel Wray, the dynamic entrepreneur behind property group Burford. Also in the wings is Crystal Palace, alongside fellow Londoners West Ham, who are also in training for their stock market debut. However, the values all three will attract is well below what they could have raised if they had floated even eight months ago. Nigel Wray says he would rather be coming to the market with a valuation which is a more realistic appraisal of the club's prospects, than when football fever roamed the City.

WH Smith, the stationers, seems to dig an ever deeper hole for itself as the hunt goes on for a suitable candidate to replace Bill Cockburn. It is clear now that the three internal contenders have been sidelined, with the consent of the non-executive directors, while the remit for a heavy hitter from outside is extended to include Europe, the US and sectors outside retail. But suppose no one suitable can be found even after this last gasp effort. For all the market knows, the internal candidates remain on the list of possibles. But if one of them is appointed, it will be hard to persuade the City that the appointee enjoys the support of the board; their credibility has been tarnished. The company should sort out its lines of communications as well, as they too are a bit awry at present.

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